New, independent sf from McCaffrey (Freedom’s Challenge, 1998, etc.) Here, Lady Nimisha, unlike most of Acclarke City, Vega III’s decadent aristocrats, enjoys tinkering with machines and improving their design. Impressed, her father, Lord Tionel, takes her into the family business, the vast Rondymense Ship Yards, and teaches her to design spaceships for the navy. And when Tionel dies in a tragic accident, Nimisha takes over—despite the objections of Tionel’s ne’er-do-well son, Vestrin. Assisted by naval attachÇ Caleb Rustin, Nimisha designs the revolutionary, ultrafast Mark 5. She takes the ship for a shakedown cruise only to be trapped by an uncharted wormhole and deposited, more or less intact, many light-years from known space. As the wormhole opens and closes unpredictably, there’s no immediate hope of rescue, so Nimisha explores a nearby habitable planet. Erehwon, then, is littered with wrecks from the wormhole’s previous victims. Nimisha finds survivors: Jon, Casper, Syrona, and young Tim. Exploring further, the group also finds descendants of survivors—the small, furry Sh’im—from an alien vessel. With plentiful supplies from a wrecked freighter, they all begin to build a civilization. Meanwhile, back at Vega, Caleb protects Nimisha’s daughter and heir, Cuiva, from the feeble threat posed by Vestrin and organizes a rescue mission. But even at top speed they’re four years’ travel away. Nimisha gives birth to Jon’s twins. A navy ship and some scientists, studying the wormhole’s last known location, topple in when it unexpectedly opens and arrive at Erehwon before Caleb and Cuiva do. Nimisha deals with some personnel problems and hunts some blimp-sized, gravity-defying predatory avians. The eventual reunion with Caleb and Cuiva will involve much backslapping, medal-giving, promotion-awarding, coming-of-age celebrating, etc. Amiable mush. Might just about satisfy McCaffrey’s least critical fans.